R. Kelly's always walked a fine line. Though he's come to prominence for crafting an unmistakably R&B sound, he morphed into a hip-hop/R&B hybrid sonically and vocally, later in his career. It's why he's become one of hip-hop's most sought after collaborators over the years. In turn, Kells has often featured MCs on his projects. With Kells appearing on Future’s Pluto release earlier this year (“Parachute”) and making way on G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer opener with Kanye West ("To the World"), not to mention a soon-to-arrive appearance on T.I.’s upcoming Trouble Man, XXL decided to ranks the mighty R’s best rap collaborations throughout the years.
25. Diddy "Satisfy You," Forever (1999)
As if a Luniz "I Got 5 On It" sample wasn't enough to make the 1999 single appeasing, Kelly's contribution to Puff's Forever smash proved to be a winning combination—topping the Billboard Rap charts and earning a gold plaque.
24. R. Kelly ft. Cam’ron, Noreaga, Jay-Z & Vegas Cats "We Ride," R. (1998)
Leave it to Kells to assemble an R&B posse cut filled with lyrical MCs. No lovey-dovey stuff, here. All MCs spit edgy rhymes over the smooth soundscape. Kells, meanwhile, plays facilitator by simply providing hooks between verses.
23. Jay-Z ft. R. Kelly "Guilty Until Proven Innocent," The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000)
Hov hadn't addressed his legal troubles up to this point. With Kells handling the hooks, he masterfully touched an on going case stemming from his alleged stabbing of Lance "Un" Rivera. The song is actually their first collaboration together and it paved the way for the blockbuster, "Fiesta (Remix)."
22. Big Tymers ft. R. Kelly "Gangsta Girl," Big Money Heavyweight (2003)
Big Tymers' R. Kelly-featured single finds the singer again stealing the show with lyrics like, "Y'all know what happens next, Hypnotiq and a rated X/Got her singin' the greatest sex." It's hard to imagine this record without the R&B Pied Piper.
21. Ja Rule ft. R. Kelly & Ashanti "Wonderful," R.U.L.E. (2004)
An embattled Ja Rule reached out to the R for the lead single off his R.U.L.E. album—his first since taking a loss to 50 Cent. The song would go on to earn a gold certification from the RIAA added to Kelly's arsenal of hits.
20. Fat Joe ft. R. Kelly, Lil Wayne, T.I., Birdman, Rick Ross and Ace Mac "Make It Rain (Remix)," Me, Myself & I (2007)
Kells was on one hell of a run in 2007. Hopping on a number of remixes, as well as prepping the release of his Double Up album, the R&B titan managed to score another notable highlight on the remix to Fat Joe’s “Make It Rain” banger, which also featured Lil Wayne, T.I., Rick Ross, Birdman and more. While the original track was impressive enough, Kells added his signature soulman flair while crooning lines like "I'm trying to stay R&B but these streets is a part of me, so don't get it twisted..."
19. Swizz Beatz ft. R. Kelly, Lil Wayne and Jadakiss "It's Me... (Remix)," One Man Band Man (2007)
While Weezy's opening verse may have been a showstopper on the original, the Pied Piper took the remix up another level as he pounded his chest like king kong, boasted about his legacy (R&B singer, Mr. Defeater/21 years and I'm still coming through your speakers), accomplishments (I'm a Billboard shyster) and of course his lascivious side.
18. "Honey" with Jay-Z The Best Of Both Worlds (2002)
Yet another gem on Best of Both Worlds. The track is a testament to how successful the album could have been if they promoted it. Kells handles hook duties effortlessly on the summery soundscape. The Bee Gees would have been proud.
17. "Best Of Both Worlds Intro" w/ Jay-Z The Best of Both Worlds (2002)
Kells' back-and-forth with Jigga make for an exhilarating intro that perfectly sets the stage for the best of, both worlds. Oh-oh!
16. Twista ft. R. Kelly "So Sexy," Kamikaze (2006)
Belting out yet another catchy hook wasn't enough, here. Kells dropped a verse of his own, relying on his signature rap-sing delivery with lines like, "So many girls off up in the mall boy a nigga be in the club (ohh!)/Soon as one of them walk by me and I be like, Yo whassup?" The single helped push Twista's Kamikaze towards a platinum plaque.
15. Fat Joe ft. R. Kelly "We Thuggin'," J.O.S.E (Jealous Ones Still Envy) (2001)
Still chasing commercial success, Fat Joe enlisted Kelly for the lead single to his 2001 LP, J.O.S.E (Jealous Ones Still Envy) . The track set the table for Joe's first platinum plaque.
14. “Snake” ft. Cam’ron & Big Tigger Chocolate Factory (2003)
R. Kelly rounded up Killa Cam and Tigger for one hypnotizing single that remained an eardrum fixture and radio smash through the summer of 2004.
13. "I'm a Flirt (Remix)" ft. T.I. & T-Pain Double Up (2007)
This Double Up single managed to be a hit for the Pied Piper, cracking the top 20 on the Billboard’s Hot 100, peaking at number 12. Not to mention, it was also boosted by 2007’s big names: T.I. and T-Pain.
12. R. Kelly ft. Birdman & Busta Rhymes “Thoia Thoing” The R. in R&B Collection, Vol. 1 (2003)
It’s still unclear what the title means, but track nine off Kells’ greatest hits compilation was a problem during the summer of 2003, especially with the remix featuring appearances from Cash Money’s Birdman and Flipmode captain Bussa Busss. The hypnotic single spawned freestyles left and right including by The Diplomats and earned Kelly another Top 20 record on the Billboard Hot 100—reaching no. 13 and 16 on the Rhythmic Top 40 chart.
11. R. Kelly ft. The Notorious B.I.G. "You To Be (Be Happy)," R. Kelly (1995)
Kells may have worked with Jay-Z and Nas extensively, but Biggie has the distinction of being the first rapper featured on a Kells record. Though it was never released a single, it stands as one of the most memorable tracks on Kelly's self-titled '95 LP to this day.
10. “Take You Home With Me aka Body” w/ Jay-Z The Best of Both Worlds (2002)
Kells' penchant for merging rap and R&B is front and center here, as he swagger jacks the opening lines from Jay's "Ain't No Nigga." "I make it hotter than the next bitch," he sings. Together the two take home a couple wives and went on to take a top five slot on the Billboard Rap singles chart.
9. Nas ft. R. Kelly "Street Dreams (Remix)" (1996)
It's the collaboration that birthed Kells memorable string of guest hooks on rap songs. He'd work with Biggie on his self-titled 1995 LP, but he'd yet to appear on a rap song until God's Son recruited him for this remix off It Was Written. It quite possibly kick-started the working relationship between Kells and Trackmasters, as well. They would go on to work together on Best of Both Worlds.
8. “Home Alone" ft. Keith Murray R. (1998)
The opener to his R. album found Kells churning out a reason to celebrate on this ’90s house party anthem with Keith Murray. Can’t sleep on this one.
7. "Get This Money" with Jay-Z The Best Of Both Worlds (2002)
Kells and Hov cooked up a paper chase anthem over the Pied Piper's use of spanish guitars and bouncy rhythm. Together the duo created a tantalizing treatment for the clubs and radio. Best of both worlds indeed.
6. Snoop Dogg ft. R. Kelly "That's That Shit," The Blue Carpet Treatment (2006)
Snoop enlisted Kelly on the hook to his gem off the 2006's The Blue Carpet Treatment and the results were well, the shit. The Coming to America sample was an undeniable highlight, but the R's hook is really what made the track.
5. R. Kelly ft. Nas "Did You Ever Think (Remix)," R. (1998)
Grabbing Nas for the remix to R.’s “Did You Ever Think” single, was a well executed move for the singer as the two created a gem with this smoothed-out, reflective rags-to-riches record.
4. Young Jeezy ft. R. Kelly "Go Getta," The Inspiration: Thug Motivation 102 (2006)
From the build up with Kells' simple Young Jeezy...and your boy Kells to the end, Jeezy's block-rocking banger was taken up another level with the vocals of R. Kelly. Together the two created an anthem that's considered one of Jeezy's best singles to date. Thug motivation indeed.
3. Cassidy ft. R. Kelly "Hotel," Split Personality (2004)
Cassidy scored the biggest hit of his career thanks to Kells' addictive chorus. The lead single to his 2004 debut, Split Personality, it peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Though it never heard a certification from the RIAA, it was inescapable at the time of its release.
2. The Notorious B.I.G. ft. R. Kelly "Fucking You Tonight," Life After Death (1997)
B.I.G's classic double LP Life After Death provided plenty of jewels ("Kick In the Door," "Notorious Thugs," etc.) but he balanced the hardcore with his duet with Kells— the sexy slow jam "Fucking You Tonight." Kells' pacifying vocals meshed well with the Notorious One's raw yet calm, cool and collected delivery. Like a wind face Rolex, this collabo shines.
1. "Fiesta (Remix)" ft. Jay-Z and Boo & Gotti, TP-2.com (2001)
It's likely the smash that inspired Kells and Jay's Best of Both Worlds. Sure, they'd previously collaborated on Hov's "Guilty Til Proven Innocent" off Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter, but the remix to "Fiesta" was just on another plane. Way before friction existed between the two, Jigga and Kells proved their chemistry on record to be tougher than that leather on the Fonz with Jay providing the clever wordplay he’s known for and Kells well, crooning vocals smooth enough to have your man sayin’ ‘Tell me have you seen her?. The Trackmasters- produced chart-topper—sitting atop the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart for reportedly five weeks—was the summer smash in 2001 and years later it still continues to catch burn. My, my, my, my…